Speaking in plenary is a key mark of MPs’ understanding of their job

From left: Kapseret MP Oscar Sudi, Nakuru West MP Samuel Arama and Kilgoris MP Gideon Konchella. They are among 21 legislators who did not utter a single word in Parliament. PHOTOS | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP

What you need to know:

  • Yet the fearless Sudi of public fora, Sudi the daredevil of social media and news events, speaks not a word in Parliament.
  • But what Mr Sudi is arguing is that he does not have to speak in the plenary in order to be effective or to be judged as effective.

Nobody in Kenya’s 12th Parliament shoots from the hip as often as he does.

None is as vociferous and voluble in attack on behalf, and in defence, of Deputy President William Ruto, as he.

He does not shy from hurling invective and obscenity when he takes on the DP’s enemies.

FEARS NOBODY

He spares nobody, suggesting he fears nobody, not least the President.

He is Mr Oscar Sudi, the Member of Parliament for Kapseret in Uasin Gishu County. Yet the fearless Sudi of public fora, Sudi the daredevil of social media and news events, speaks not a word in Parliament.

This is according to Mzalendo Trust, the lobby that tracks the performance of Kenya’s MPs on the floors of the twin Houses of Parliament.

Its report for the September 2017 to December 2018 period, released last week, shows Mr Sudi did not utter a word from the floor of the National Assembly.

Why this supreme irony?

When, in June last year, the Mzalendo parliamentary performance index listed Mr Sudi among the worst-performing MPs, he let rip in controversial fashion. He said he had left the floor of Bunge for MPs from Nyanza because they speak “too much English”.

He said there are many roles MPs play in and outside the Houses and in and out of House committees.

But, he was quick to remind, when there were crucial votes, he would be present and vote. And he retorted that his constituents were not complaining about his performance as their MP.

ENTER MZALENDO.

By tracking and ranking the performance of MPs in plenary, the lobby attempts to sensitise the public about the work of MPs, cause scrutiny and discussion of their performance and bring about greater participation in national debates and parliamentary democracy.

But what Mr Sudi is arguing is that he does not have to speak in the plenary in order to be effective or to be judged as effective.

Indeed, more than 60 per cent of the work of Parliament is carried out in and by committees. Could an MP be effective in committees and not the plenary?

It is possible that an MP could perform outstandingly in one and not both, but it is not possible that one would shine in one and be completely silent in the other.


The plenary is the face of Bunge; the plenary is the nation in conversation; and the plenary takes Bunge to the people. To most Kenyans, the plenary is Bunge, which means performance on this stage is indeed being at work and being seen to be at work. But is that reason enough to conclude Mzalendo Trust is right to promote – or lay premium on – performance in the plenary at the expense of the committees?

No, precisely because the plenary does not constitute even half of the work of MPs.

I noticed, for example, that Busia Senator Amos Wako was listed among MPs who did not contribute to debates during the period in review. I would hesitate to use that to rank him as a non-performing MP.

But I would question his silence given his wisdom, experience, ability to think on his feet and proclivity for mediation and arbitration.

KEEP QUIET

That would drive me to investigate his role in committees. How about Mr Sudi's argument that he must be doing well because his constituents are not complaining?

Electors should not keep quiet when their representatives do not speak in the National Assembly or the Senate.

For one thing, the MP is supposed to articulate their aspirations, expectations and concerns as well as positions on the crucial issues of the day.

For another, Bunge is the stage on which their son or daughter is licensed by them to perform to showcase them as Kenyans and believers in democracy.

All politics is local, but Bunge is the melting pot in which it is displayed, in the persons and performance of MPs, for the nation to behold.

Three, while one’s contribution in the plenary may not be the measure for one’s performance or competence, it surely is an indicator that one is conversant with the issues being discussed and is able to articulate the concerns of electors and proffer solutions.

That is leadership and great leaders have always been good speakers. What better place to speak than Bunge?

I remember these words by the late Chelagat Mutai: “Nilipokua Bunge niliongea mpaka dunia nzima ilijua Eldoret North (When I was MP, Eldoret North was famous globally because of my speeches.)”

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